Fire Safety

Initiative: 
Safety

Why are clean and passable alleys important?

Fire Safety:

  • Provide key route for escape from a burning home.
  • Provide key means of access for firefighters to combat a blaze.
  • Remove overgrown vegetation and weeds, which can act as tinder and kindling, allowing fires to easily jump from property to property.

Crime and Personal Safety:

  • Overgrown and obstructed alleys provide hiding spots for criminals on the run.
  • A clear alley allows officers to more easily track and chase fleeing criminals.

Quality of Life:

  • Clear alleys allow neighbors to take out the trash and recycling without traipsing it through the house.
  • They allow neighbors to interact and visit each other’s homes without stepping out the front door (or out of your pajamas).
  • Obstructed alleys, often filled with construction debris and buckets, can create pools of standing water, which are spawning grounds for disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Who owns alleys?

Alleys are normally deeded to private property and therefore are treated by the city as such. They do not clean alleys. When funding permits, they will change alley lights, but nothing more. It is the responsibility of neighbors to keep them clear of obstructions and debris.

Can I put up a gate?

Opinion on whether you are allowed to gate and lock them is inconsistent. Streets Department representatives say that homeowners can gate and lock alleyways provided that everyone with rights to the easement (including utilities, if any) agree to the arrangement and are given a key. You can also eliminate an alleyway if you so desire (provided that utilities are not an issues). In that scenario, everyone’s back yard would get extended to the centerline of the alleyway.

What about the wires that run up and down the length of many alleys, oftentimes unkempt and strewn every which way?

Those are the property of individual utilities (normally Comcast or Verizon) and one must reach out to those companies, directly requesting action.

What do city officials and neighbors say?

“It is important to keep your alley clean and clear of trash because it may be needed as an escape route if you were to have a fire. Also, firefighters may have to use alley ways to perform rescue operations of victims that are trapped during a fire.” – Derrick Sawyer, Battalion Chief, Fire Prevention Division

“Alleys . . . are private property. They belong to you, the property owner; the City of Philadelphia does not own or maintain them. It is your responsibility to maintain them in a safe and sanitary condition. All abutting owners, generally, have the right to use the entire length of an alley (this is written in your deed). All costs for repairs or reconstruction to an alleyway . . . are shared by those property owners having deed rights . . . Even if only parts of an alley need repair, all responsible property owners must share the cost of the repair.” – The Streets Departments pamphlet entitled “alleys, driveways and retaining walls”

Fire Safety Projects

  • Distributing fire safety tips and smoke detectors
  • Coordinating alley cleanups. Alleys are integral to the fire safety of this neighborhood. If blocked they can prevent firefighters from accessing a burning house on your block.

What You Can Do
The Philadelphia Fire Department suggests that the number one way to protect yourself from fire injuries is to install and maintain a smoke detector on each level of your home. The Fire Department provides and installs free smoke detectors for low-income residents. To request a new detector call 215-686-1176 and leave your name, address, and daytime telephone number on the voicemail. Someone will call you back to set up a time to meet with you.

Organize your neighbors to help clean your shared alleyway. Contact SOSNA for help setting up a special trash pick-up from Streets Dept. It's also a great way to meet your neighbors.

To report a fire call 911!

These are the local fire stations

  • 711 S. Broad Street
  • 1357 S. 12 Street
  • 1200 S. 20th Street.
  • 3023 Grays Ferry Avenue

The Philadelphia Fire Department website  has a number of links on fire safety.  

Files & Links